Tuesday, May 26, 2009

#3 Box Office in the U.S.!

The Memorial Weekend box office figures are among the most prized in the Film Making calendar. "Easy Virtue" has come in #3 behind "Terminator Salvation", and "Night at the Museum II"!

Of course, that ranking is for the 'per screen average', but it's impressive, none the less. 'Terminator' and 'Museum' are have budgets into the 100's of millions of dollars with platform releases going out on 3,500 and 4,000 screens respectively. "Easy Virtue", on the other hand is a modestly budgeted British film in limited release in New York and Los Angeles. That means it's punching well above its weight on a tiny 10 screens - yep. one, zero - and still the little British film came 24th over all - according to Box Office Mojo

The Hollywood Reporter was quick to point out the success of the film:" Among the latest limited bows, Sony Pictures Classics' romantic comedy "Easy Virtue" -- starring Colin Firth and Jessica Biel -- unspooled in 10 theaters and grossed $146,140. That represented an impressive $14,614 per venue."

And The Huffington Post was also impressed: "While Ben Stiller and the Terminator battled it out in Hollywood (with Ben Stiller the surprise champion), Indiewood’s Memorial Day weekend had a clear box office winner in Stephan Elliott’s “Easy Virtue.” According to estimates, the Noel Coward adaptation grossed a classy $146,140 on 10 screens.  Released by Sony Pictures Classics, “Virtue” - which stars Ben Barnes, Jessica Biel and Kristen Scott Thomas - averaged $14,614 over the four-day weekend, easily the highest among all specialty releases."

Sunday, May 24, 2009

U.S. Big Guns Blazing for Easy Virtue

The prestigious  Broadcast Film Critics Association which is culled from the most senior reviewers around the United States is currently rating "Easy Virtue" at a high of 77.  This is a culmination of terrific reviews which began back in Toronto with high praise from the three major industry magazines: Variety, Screen Daily and The Hollywood Reporter.

With the release of the film over the Memorial Weekend (May 22nd, 2009) in Los Angeles and New York, other great critics have waded in in support of the film.

In the L.A. Times, Betsey Sharkey writes that "There are probably no better hands to entrust virtue o any sort to than those of writer-director Stephan Elliott... [He has] created a wonderfully rich battle for propriety in "Easy Virtue." The humor might sting, but the pain is worth the pleasure."

In USA Today, senior reviewer Claudia Puig says "Easy Virtue goes down as light a fizzily as a flute of Champagne tossed back in an airy drawing room."

Ella Taylor at The Village Voice described it as "deliciously cheeky" with a "uniformly great cast."

Rex Reed at in the The Observer writes, "The stifling repression endemic to the British class system is so impeccably preserved that it connects with modern audiences, and young people allergic to period pieces are likely to embrace the message about the need to break from the shackles of the past and open a window to a brave new future." ... "Easy Virtue is romantic, clever and artfully crafted. All told, a sparkling, classy and ultimately satisfying experience."

Also New York Times critic Stephen Holden made it the pick of the week with four out of five stars. "The film uses ingenious visual symbols - curved oval mirrors and stuffed animals - to suggest the Whittakers' warped Victorian values and the deadness of a culture Larita finds unendurable"

Perhaps best of all for a film which is designed to attract a younger audience as well as the traditional demographic for period drama - Rolling Stone Magazines' reviewer, Peter Travers in his pithy review sums up with: "Stephan Elliott uncorks a rare vintage of laughs tinged with heartache."

Sunday, May 3, 2009

"Easy Virtue" wins Audience Prize

Hot on the heels of the Tribeca Film Festival in New York - The 10th Annual Newport Beach Film Festival closed last Thursday night  with two films tying for the audience award for best feature:  "Easy Virtue," (which screened on April 26); and "Street Dreams,"(April 25) were both deemed by the record crowds to be the most popular films of the festival.

Rachel Josue from MTV saw "Easy Virtue" at a press screening as part of the Tribeca Film Festival - "The Verdict: Excellent. I loved it.

Set in the 1930’s in rural England, the film centers around Larita (Jessica Biel), a mature American woman who has just married John Whittaker (Ben Barnes), a young Englishman. The newlyweds travel to his family’s farming estate so Larita can meet his family. Her mother in-law Mrs. Whittaker (Kristin Scott Thomas) tries to undermine her at every turn, but Larita doesn’t go down so easily. The way the story of Larita unfolds keeps the audience in its toes. The dialogue is witty and the story funny. "

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Tribeca Film Festival: "Must See" (New York Magazine)

"Easy Virtue" is screening tonight at the Tribeca Film Festival. New York Magazine listed the film as one of the "must see" movies of the festival. This is what they had to say:

"How do you update Noel Coward's fizzy 1924 masterpiece of class conflict for the 21st century? You don't. Elliott's lovely take on Coward's female American race-car driver marrying into an upper crust British family is terrifically acted by colin Firth, Kristin Scott Thomas, and (surprise!) Jessica Biel." -B.E.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

The Noel Coward Society Approves!

There’s a lot of opinion about what Noel Coward, may, or may not have thought about the latest film version of his play, “Easy Virtue”, but if it’s any guide - the Noel Coward Society approves.

This is the review they have posted on their website:
“Elliott has struggled to find a rhythm to his career in the afterglow of his biggest success The Adventures Of Priscilla, Queen Of The Desert (1994). Easy Virtue is his most satisfying effort since that landmark production and finds him at ease with a world of cutting wordplay and class conflict. He embraces the lush theatricality of Coward's sensibility, but without toppling into the kind of camp archness that might grate with a contemporary audience. He also employs a cast that has the comic timing and dramatic abilities to make the most of the subtleties in Coward's writing.

You expect Kristin Scott Thomas and Colin Firth to be completely at home in this universe, but the revelation is Jessica Biel who handles the literate dialogue with aplomb. She plays Larita, a daredevil American sensation of the European race track who follows a whirlwind romance with naive Englishman John (Ben Barnes) by marrying him and then facing the daunting prospect of meeting his parents. Frosty mother Veronica (Kristin Scott Thomas) does everything she can to make her feel unwelcome and a state of war is declared. Laritta discovers all the poisonous emotions that flow within the family whilst Veronica and the daughters uncover all the dirty secrets from Larita's past that might convince John that this is not a marriage made in heaven.

Coward was the master of the well-constructed, impeccably witty play that eventually reveals some home truths about the emotional repression of the English middle-classes and the stifling repression endemic to the British class system. All of those elements are present in this adaptation. There are still lines of such wit and savagery that they easily connect with a modern audience and the message about the need to break from from the shackles of the past and embrace the possibilities of a new, uncertain future is timeless.

The ubiquitous Colin Firth has some telling moments as Mrs Whittaker's bored husband and grumpy paterfamilias Jim, Kris Marshall milks all the deadpan comedy in family retainer Thurber and Kristin Scott Thomas has just the right edge of manic malice to make Veronica a formidable opponent.

Who knows what value the Noel Coward brand has for a modern audience, but this is enjoyable and accessible enough to provide a substantial specialist hit.”

Monday, April 13, 2009

"Feel-good hit of the season" : US Dates

"Easy Virtue" continues to screen on all of its cinemas as it enters it 6th week in Australia. Excellent reviews, tremendous box office and great word of mouth have all buoyed the films cache as is now prepares to open in France (on May 6th), the US (May 22nd) and New Zealand (May 28th). [Advertisement from SMH, Saturday 11th April, 2009]

Prior to those release dates, there will advance festival screenings in the US. The Tribeca Film Festival - has invited 'Easy Virtue' to be a part of their 'Spotlight' section. It will have it's first American screening at 6pm on the 28th of April, (BMCC cinema) and again at 4.15pm the next day (at AV7-07) and 9.30pm on Friday the first of May (AV7-04).

Tribeca Film Festival: Program Notes say:
"Based on the Noel Coward play, Easy Virtue is reworked and revitalized in Stephan Elliott's (The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert) triumphant adaptation. Class-conscious Brits the Whittakers meet their son's (Ben Barnes) gorgeous and scandalous bride, Larita (Jessica Biel) with hesitation and subsequent disgust. She is a wily American race car driver with all the flair of a young Dietrich, but her carefree and liberal attitude does not go over well with the in-laws' old-world values and stuffy traditions. Larita's biggest naysayer is Mrs. Whittaker, wickedly played by Kristin Scott Thomas. Her husband (Colin Firth) is the offbeat recluse of the bunch, who adds wonderful comedic relief in tense moments. As the mother-in-law and new world daughter duke it out in hilarious fashion over the course of the couple's stay, we can't help but cheer on the shake-up.

"Elliott sticks to the heart of the Coward play by digging into the hypocrisy of priggish aristocrats refusing to roll with the times, and he and fellow screenwriter Sheridan Jobbins inject each scene with delightfully witty dialogue. Easy Virtue mesmerizes and tickles with great performances and good old-fashioned laughs. A Sony Pictures Classics presentation.
--written by Genna Terranova"

The film has also been invited to the San Francisco International Film Festival, screening at 6pm on Wednesday 6th of May, Thursday afternoon, 7th of May.

Their review of the film says: "The director of The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert returns after a nine-year absence with this randy update of the classic Noel Coward Jazz-Age play, giving it a jaunty 21st-century swing while retaining all its original barbs and charms. It’s the mid-1920s in stuffy old England, and the snobbish family of wealthy trophy-boy John Whittaker wouldn’t mind if time stood still forever. Imagine their consternation, then, when John brings home impromptu new bride Larita (Jessica Biel), who’s not only a modern woman with modern charms (and legs), but is also a successful auto racer (gasp!) and an American (even bigger gasp!). While John’s lackadaisical father (Colin Firth, perpetually perched between slumber and scruff) doesn’t seem to mind Larita’s presence, his overbearing mother (an icily regal Kristin Scott Thomas) certainly does, and soon a battle of wits and wills rattles through the family’s crumbling estate, as two strong women—one of the past, the other of the present—battle for the future. Director Stephan Elliot infuses the play’s already toxic social commentary with some unexpectedly modern fashions and pop hits (“Sex Bomb,” “Carwash,” etc.), but his wisest decision is to just let his cast loose on Coward’s notoriously cutting dialogue. All barbed-wire niceties and ice-water kisses, Thomas embodies a social scion of a very certain class, while Firth counters her chill with a dishevelled warmth all his own. It’s Jessica Biel, however, who delivers the truly astonishing performance, her bohemian beauty polished by a spirited, razor-sharp wit."

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Emphatic Praise: National Television Australia AND First Weekend Box Office Success!

Mornings with Kerrie Ann Kennerley had this to say about "Easy Virtue". In some respects - it speaks for itself. In others:"It's the most enjoyable film I've seen in the last six months" and "...sometimes you just want to walk out of the cinema with a big smile on your face - and that's why this film worked for me."

Andrew Mercado ****1/2 stars!

On the other hand - this is also about the wider review. The Australian public voted "Easy Virtue" their per screen number one:The upshot being: "Elliott’s Easy Virtue topped the limited release charts".